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Starting a mechanic business...

Old 05-19-21, 01:31 PM
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Starting a mechanic business...

Hello all!

I've been working off and on for a couple of decades on my own fleet of bikes and I find I really enjoy the work. I would consider my skills knowledgeable amateur mechanic level. I'm thinking of starting up a small bike stall in my neighbourhood to service the area code I'm in. I'm not accepting payment but am requesting that donations of any amount be sent to a volunteer run bike shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada named bikeSauce. They do their best to help people get their bikes on the road and charge little to no money for their assistance. You can work on your own bike there using one of their many stands. I like what they do and want to support them. I would volunteer there but they are so far away from where I live. I'm looking for any words of wisdom from The Collective on whether this is a good idea or not. I have a workstand and lots of tools from over the years and would like to get some more experience working on all kinds of bikes. I'm also looking to connect with fellow cyclists in the neighbourhood.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-19-21, 02:12 PM
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Sorry to be a downer...
Cost of Liability Insurance?
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Old 05-19-21, 02:30 PM
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I think, in theory; it's a good idea. In reality, you could be bringing some troubles to yourself. You can get people to sign waivers, but in many cases, if someone that signed a waiver wants to take you to court for what ever reason, the waiver does not mean a whole. Maybe contact a couple of co-ops via email, text or phone, and ask them there thoughts on it. Personally, I like working on my own bikes, I would not want to be working on bikes that belong to others, except family and good friends. That leaves me with almost no one that would want me to work on their bikes. My closest family is 900 miles away, and only a few of my friends are cyclists. I had a neighbor stop by a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I could take a look at his bike. I walked over to his house, took a look and told him I could not help him. The very low quality bike is ready to be thrown in the trash.
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Old 05-19-21, 03:19 PM
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You are absolutely going to need insurance. You're going to have to invest in at least some consumables...tubes, cables, housing, chains, brake pads or you'll have to order every time you take in a job.
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Old 05-19-21, 03:48 PM
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First he is Canadian and for the most part we don't sue like our neighbours to the south so liability insurance for the work he wants to do is overkill.

For community work like you are describing you will be fine with some of the bare minimums of things like tubes and cables. For specialty parts you can have the owners purchase them and bring them to you as needed.

Helping others with your knowledge and time are worthy causes. I wish you luck.

I don't know which part of the city you are in but have you checked out Bike Pirates? They might be able to use your services if you decide to not go the community route.

Every year some people come to my condo building and over their services for bike repairs as a pay what you can (lots of families in my building) and it is a big hit around here. You might think of using that model in around your neighbourhood.

Last edited by blakcloud; 05-19-21 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by cxwrench View Post
You are absolutely going to need insurance. You're going to have to invest in at least some consumables...tubes, cables, housing, chains, brake pads or you'll have to order every time you take in a job.
I can't imagine doing any reasonable volume of repairs without having a QBP account.
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Old 05-20-21, 02:40 AM
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The liability insurance is to protect yourself when something happens that is clearly your fault. Unless you are superhuman and do not make mistakes, insurance is needed to cover those times when your good neighbor that does not bring suite for the most part, does indeed bring suite for your error.
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Old 05-20-21, 03:58 AM
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Originally Posted by blakcloud View Post
First he is Canadian and for the most part we don't sue like our neighbours to the south so liability insurance for the work he wants to do is overkill.

For community work like you are describing you will be fine with some of the bare minimums of things like tubes and cables. For specialty parts you can have the owners purchase them and bring them to you as needed.

Helping others with your knowledge and time are worthy causes. I wish you luck.

I don't know which part of the city you are in but have you checked out Bike Pirates? They might be able to use your services if you decide to not go the community route.

Every year some people come to my condo building and over their services for bike repairs as a pay what you can (lots of families in my building) and it is a big hit around here. You might think of using that model in around your neighbourhood.
You get it... Its a community service more than a business, although it could lead into a business if things go very well. I have heard of Bike Pirates and will now do some research as you recommended checking them out. I live in a three building complex and the idea is to put posters up in the building common areas to help drum up some interest. There's also some common bike areas in the basement that I could put the posters up around but I want to do things according to the building rules. I hope one day to work in the complex so getting on their good side is the goal.

Thanks for your positivity in this. I'm not wanting to go the bike liability route and get insurance mainly due to the main reason that I loathe insurance in principal. I suppose if it comes to a point where I consider it a business I'll rethink this as is necessary. Also, as you pointed out, its Canada and we don't normally sue when things go wrong.

Community service is the goal and gaining experience is the priority. I will veto any bike that really needs to be replaced and suggest that if the bike is brought to me. I don't plan on offering any parts for sale...I'm suggesting that we discuss the parts required and the bicycle owner purchases them if we can agree upon the necessity.

I guess I'm aiming for a bike shop feel without the price gouging of some of them. I live in Pickering and the bike shops out here kind of suck.

Chrisp
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Old 05-20-21, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
The liability insurance is to protect yourself when something happens that is clearly your fault. Unless you are superhuman and do not make mistakes, insurance is needed to cover those times when your good neighbor that does not bring suite for the most part, does indeed bring suite for your error.
Again you are missing the details. This is Canada, we don't sue. It's why we don't have lawyers on every corner. Second the clientele he will be dealing with won't even have the money to sue even it was open to them. Lawyers aren't free and the Upper Canada Law Society has strict rules for the use of you don't win you don't pay style of arrangements. Again our model is not YOUR model. Last people don't sue when they know they can't collect. If someone is working for free in community centers how much money do you think they have? You can't take blood from a stone.

Legal-Aid our fee legal service would not take such a case as it isn't in their mandate.
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Old 05-20-21, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Chrisp72 View Post
You get it... Its a community service more than a business, although it could lead into a business if things go very well. snipped
I guess I'm aiming for a bike shop feel without the price gouging of some of them. I live in Pickering and the bike shops out here kind of suck.

Chrisp
I am liking this more and more. In communities such as Pickering, they are under served in many services since it is close to Toronto. Trying to find resources for those in need as been problematic for the work I do in the corrections system and this is just a microcosm of bigger issues. Teaming up with the buildings in your neighbourhood is a great idea. At some point you could even apply for community grants. Companies such as Air Canada, Canadian Tire and other government organizations to help fund this endeavor but for now just start small and see how much you like it. Look into Park Tool as they have community grants but not sure if they support Canada. There is a need that will be a given.

Many years ago a guy set up a tent on the corner of Spadina and Bloor and called his company "Dave Fix MY Bike". You would drop it off on your way to work and he would fix it in time for your ride home. He eventually moved to his own shop on Bathurst, don't know if he still there are not but I liked his model. The difference of course it was premised based on a money making venture which is different than yours.

Again good luck and I hope that this works out for you and the communities that you serve.
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Old 05-20-21, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Chrisp72 View Post
Hello all!


I've been working off and on for a couple of decades on my own fleet of bikes and I find I really enjoy the work. I would consider my skills knowledgeable amateur mechanic level. I'm thinking of starting up a small bike stall in my neighbourhood to service the area code I'm in. I'm not accepting payment but am requesting that donations of any amount be sent to a volunteer run bike shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada named bikeSauce. They do their best to help people get their bikes on the road and charge little to no money for their assistance. You can work on your own bike there using one of their many stands. I like what they do and want to support them. I would volunteer there but they are so far away from where I live. I'm looking for any words of wisdom from The Collective on whether this is a good idea or not. I have a workstand and lots of tools from over the years and would like to get some more experience working on all kinds of bikes. I'm also looking to connect with fellow cyclists in the neighbourhood.


Thoughts?
Well good luck - I think it's a very laudable impulse to want to help people out without a profit motive. Personally, while I like working on my own bikes, and I'll happily help out on a mate's bike if s/he wants to bring it around and make use of my tools, I wouldn't be interested in working on a stranger's bike - if I screw up my own work, that's on me; if my mate screws up their bike with my tools, that's on them - they'll get a sympathetic shoulder, a beer and some hopefully useful advice to fix the problem - but I don't want to be responsible for someone else's stuff. As with others, my first thought when I read your initial post was "liability". I think a blanket statement that "we're Canadian - we don't sue" is a bit naive. I would've once said the same thing about my home country (Ireland), but that's in the past - we've caught the litigation disease. If you have courts and lawyers in your country, you're open to being sued. If you own a house, a car or pretty much any other assets, you have stuff to lose. If some guy breaks his neck because you screwed up his brake repair, do you really think it's going to be "no harm, no foul, eh?" from his quadriplegic bed? This is the benefit of working within a larger entity - they usually cover your liability.
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Old 05-21-21, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Litespud View Post
Well good luck - I think it's a very laudable impulse to want to help people out without a profit motive. Personally, while I like working on my own bikes, and I'll happily help out on a mate's bike if s/he wants to bring it around and make use of my tools, I wouldn't be interested in working on a stranger's bike - if I screw up my own work, that's on me; if my mate screws up their bike with my tools, that's on them - they'll get a sympathetic shoulder, a beer and some hopefully useful advice to fix the problem - but I don't want to be responsible for someone else's stuff. As with others, my first thought when I read your initial post was "liability". I think a blanket statement that "we're Canadian - we don't sue" is a bit naive. I would've once said the same thing about my home country (Ireland), but that's in the past - we've caught the litigation disease. If you have courts and lawyers in your country, you're open to being sued. If you own a house, a car or pretty much any other assets, you have stuff to lose. If some guy breaks his neck because you screwed up his brake repair, do you really think it's going to be "no harm, no foul, eh?" from his quadriplegic bed? This is the benefit of working within a larger entity - they usually cover your liability.

Hi Litespud!

You bring up a good point about liability and getting sued. I don't own much but that wouldn't excuse hurting someone if my work isn't up to snuff...I don't want to injure anyone through neglect. Maybe I'll just provide the tools and experience and let them work on their own bicycles...that way if anything negative happens I'm off the hook...hopefully. I'll heed your advice though and will try to see how things develop...I've reached out to non profit bike sources for any advice they may offer. Thank you so much for pointing things out and I still want to move forward with this but will do so with some more thought.
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Old 05-21-21, 11:24 AM
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You might have even more impact if you're willing to travel to the needy, like a doctor who makes housecalls. A lot of the people whom you can impact the most might never get up the motivation to come see you. Just speculating. Good luck, you're doing God's Bikework.
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Old 05-21-21, 05:49 PM
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Travelling may be the next step if things go well and people appreciate things. I only have a small hatchback but I'm sure I could fit everything I need into it. So far I've had on donation to bikeSauce which is great! I helped out a couple with some used wheels that I wasn't using. They made the first donation and I wasn't even trying to work on their bikes...
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Old 05-25-21, 08:21 AM
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QBP is prohibitively expensive for Canadians. Try Babac out of Montreal for parts. They generally will open an account for COD on orders. If you need a parts supply otherwise you will face some obstacles since most suppliers want a retail address and you don't have one.

Canadians do sue--just ask a few older bicycle stores--but are much less likely to do so if they are working on their own bicycles under supervision.

Do continue your quest, and maintain a good working relationship with your local bike shops, even though you may not like their style much. They will help you within reason when you face challenges.

Send me a pm if you wish. I live only a few km from you. I have over 45 years of wrenching experience, including 20 years in the business as an employee and LBS.

Keep up the good work.
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Old 05-25-21, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I can't imagine doing any reasonable volume of repairs without having a QBP account.
Good luck with getting a QBP account in Canada. Unless one has a retail storefront or a van with signage, AFAIK, no major Canadian wholesaler (Live To Play, HLC, Orange Sport Supply, QBP) will open an account.

I volunteer at a local bike co-op. Chatted with a fellow volunteer one day - he had incorporated, got a Provincial Sales Tax as well as a Goods and Services Tax Number, and a business licence - then applied for wholesale accounts. They all turned him down.

The reason given was that the industry is moving towards vertically-integrated bike stores (Giant / Trek / Specialized) and mobile services (VeloFix, etc) so the wholesalers are trying to support LBS by only granting accounts to those with either a storefront or, at minimum, a van with signage.

So how do I run a one-person bike shop? By buying online. Amazon delivers most thing in 2 days, $25 minimum order.
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Old 05-26-21, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by xlbs View Post
QBP is prohibitively expensive for Canadians. Try Babac out of Montreal for parts. They generally will open an account for COD on orders. If you need a parts supply otherwise you will face some obstacles since most suppliers want a retail address and you don't have one.

Canadians do sue--just ask a few older bicycle stores--but are much less likely to do so if they are working on their own bicycles under supervision.

Do continue your quest, and maintain a good working relationship with your local bike shops, even though you may not like their style much. They will help you within reason when you face challenges.

Send me a pm if you wish. I live only a few km from you. I have over 45 years of wrenching experience, including 20 years in the business as an employee and LBS.

Keep up the good work.

ive gotten bulk supplies through Amazon for my personal projects. Cables in multiples of 20; rolls of housing, cheap bar tape, even tubes
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Old 05-26-21, 09:05 AM
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Memo from the FWIW Dept.: Small businesses that do not carry liability insurance do not get sued nearly as often as those that do carry it. Much easier to sue and get a settlement from an insurance company than it is from an individual business owner. Without insurance to aim at there is often nothing to attach or really gain from a lawsuit.

It's a nice, legal Catch-22

Ignore the fear mongering over this issue and do your thing.
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Old 05-27-21, 07:55 AM
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Another idea would be to start (or help start) a co-op where people with bikes could come to get assistance in doing repairs themselves. That would give you an opportunity to wrench with some fellow enthusiasts, help others who need some assistance and do so without worrying too much about the liability aspect.

Perhaps the local police force would consider donating bikes that were stolen and then unclaimed to be used for parts or repair. Tools could be shared and signed out if they are to be used within the confines of the co-op space. A small fee ($5 or $10) from each member could go toward the purchase of tools.

My $0.02.
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Old 05-27-21, 09:54 AM
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There seems to be a lot of concern over the liability. I don't know the legal environment in Canada but it seems like the whole concept of risk management is different there compared to the U.S.A. If there is concern about some of the risks, one thing that might reduce that risk is to start off only offering some of the more basic maintenance services for which you have a high level of confidence in. Maybe start there and refer more complex maintenance to a LBS and see how it goes. If the volume of work you get increases enough over time, maybe you start thinking about more complex repairs. It seems like there wouldn't be all that much risk in the basic maintenance and tune up type of services like flat repair, chain replacement, lubrication, etc. If someone in my neighborhood asked me to help them with a flat tire or to adjust a derailleur or install a bike light, I would just do without any thought of the risk.
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